Friday, August 03, 2007

Sunday Morning Striker: Revs cast curse on Wizards, 2-0

From the time MLS was officially birthed in 1996, the question has remained: how can the league do well to attract fans to watch pro soccer here in the States? Sure, the easy answers are family-friendly prices, free parking, and wonderful opportunities to interact with players. But on an exclusive basis, SMS has found the true answer to bringing in fans.

First - a little bit of background. It was last May when SMS took Sergio, Official 12-year old Cousin of SMS, to his first MLS match vs. Houston. We sat behind the net near the Fort, and while he was surely entertained, he was impressed with one thing: the cup olders.

Yes, Gillette Stadium has many wonderful amenities, but among the finest, at least to twelve year olds across New England, were the cup holders. Thinking nothing of this innocent statement, I laughed it off, and said "Yeah, the cup holders are great, but what about the game? Did you like it?"

He laughed, and nodded in agreement, and to my delight, asked when we would be able to see them play again.So with that thought in the back of my mind and two tickets to last night's KC-Revs match in my wallet, I posed the question of whether he would like to catch another Revs game at Gillette.

His response? "Sure! Do they still have those cup holders? Those things are so cool!"
So the key to attracting young fans is simple: add cup holders to every seat of every MLS venue!

MLS, my agent is standing by should you need to contact me regarding additional ideas for bringing in more fans.
Anyway, there was quite a match on tap, and with two of the Eastern Conference's most high-powered clubs squaring off, SMS predicted (albeit, inaccurately) another shootout much like the May 26th affair, which ended 4-3 KC. What a match to take the kiddies to!

The Wizards kicked off at 7:08pm ET, and although they possessed first, it was the Revs who soon took the title of owner/CEO of the adidas Teamgeist ball for much of the proceedings Thursday Night.

The Revs were immediately pounced and began to breath down the K.C. defense in the 2nd minute off a fortuitous free kick awarded a yard before the box. With a reprisal of last match’s free kick duo, Jeff Larentowicz and Steve Ralston both positioned themselves for the kick before Ralston stepped up and thumped a ball toward net. Though the ball missed its target, it deflected off a KC defender and fell fortuitously to birthday boy Pat Noonan, who just missed the close range shot on goal.

As if rolling out the red carpet for the home side’s attack, Taylor Twellman breezed through the back line during the 10th minute. The striker approached Kevin Hartman’s zip code before taking a quick shot mere yards away that fell silent against the side of the net.

K.C. finally managed to attack during minute 16, when Wizards striker Eddie Johnson cocked and fired a hard shot that skipped wide of the far post, finally putting the Revs on notice of their potent (32 total goals this season) attack.

Minutes later, during the 25th minute, the Wizards, in a display of birthday cheer, allowed Noonan to go full-steam ahead through the box before the birthday shuffled, stopped, but ultimately failed to muster the sufficient thrust to push the ball past Hartman.

Carlos Marinelli threatened to spoil the birthday celebrations when he rocketed a shot off of defender Michael Parkhurst that forced Matt Reis to bat away – almost out of harm’s way – before the ball collided with the woodwork rolled back to Reis.

In an amazing one-two sequence of events that began in the 41st minute, the Revolution faithful rose from its feet when Khano Smith sliced down the pitch before firing a cruise missile aimed right at Hartman. The attack momentarily halted, the Revs returned less than a minute later when the red carpet was once again rolled out – this time for Andy Dorman – and the lanky mid sent a skipper that was once again stuffed by a rather-busy El Gato.

The Revs continued their dominance of the bouncing orb for the opening minutes of frame two, and confidently assembled the troops in the K.C. end. Then, the all-out assault commenced when Smith positioned himself on the left wing and delivered a majestic cross to Twellman. Instead of taking the point-blank shot as defenders quickly converged, Twellman immediately headed the pass in mid-air to Noonan on his left before the scruffy striker finally unwrapped his present and banged home the goal at the 55th minute.

(Editor’s note: For the alternate perspective on this sequence, SMS provides the following, courtesy of Yankees announcer Suzyn Waldman: "OK, hang on everybody. Pat Noonan is still in the KC box, he's got the ball, but the Wizards aren't coming back! Oh my goodness gracious! Of all the dramatic things, of all the dramatic things I've ever seen, Pat Noonan is standing right in Kevin Hartman’s box with the ball on his foot and the Wizards aren't coming back!")

Clearly unsatisfied with a one-goal advantage versus the likes of E.J. and…E.J., the local 11 continued to overtake possession, despite the best efforts of the guests. At minute 73, Dorman once again stirred up trouble by firing an RPG directly at Hartman, who began to resemble a human piñata with the abuse he began to take as a result of his matador defending corps.

Conversely, the Revs back line harassed E.J. & Co. like paparazzi around Paris Hilton’s Range Rover. Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide – and right in front of a live national audience!
Coach Steve Nicol stamped his classy signature on the night by substituting Adam Cristman for birthday boy Noonan, who received a warm round of applause from the home crowd. Yet, the move proved to be more than just for ceremony, as Cristman immediately hounded the ball in Wizards territory.

Somehow, the Wiz positioned themselves twice in the waning minutes to acquire the equalizer off of two threatening corner kicks.

However, the Revs immediately countered after the second attempt, after Reis astutely smothered the corner and flung the ball toward Ralston up field with lots of real estate before him. The captain raced toward the right before mailing a perfect cross to Cristman on the left. The rookie took the feed and quickly took the pass before pushing the ball past an off-guard Hartman to cap the festivities, giving the Revs a valuable three points against the second-place squad.

Stat of the Match, Part 1: Pat Noonan has now scored in three consecutive matches, with each of them assisted by Taylor Twellman.

Stat of the Match, Part 2: Prior to Noonan’s recent goal-scoring binge, Twellman had goose egg in the assist column this season. He now has three.

Stat of the Match, Part 3: The Revs beat K.C. at home for the first time this millennium. The last home win came on September 7, 1999.

Stat of the Match, Part 4: With Noonan and Cristman’s goals in the 55th and 91st + minute respectively, it marked the first time this season that both the starter and substitute each scored a goal in the same game for the Revs.

Stat of the Match, Part 5: Matt Reis has come up with the clean sheet in 39% of his games this season. He has seven shutouts in eighteen MLS matches thus far.

Stat of the Match, Part 6: Despite the grumbles of many, the Revs are still undefeated on the Gillette Stadium FieldTurf, having gone 5-0-2 on it.

Stat of the Match, Part 7: Not to be forgotten in Noonan’s spectacular birthday performance is Jay Heaps’ 31st birthday on the very same night. It should be noted that Heaps also had a great night on the pitch as well by commandeering the Revs backs to an impressive blanketing of the dangerous K.C. attack.

The AND1 “OH BAY-BEE!”Play of the Match: In the 66th minute , Wizards mid Carlos Marinelli gleefully traipsed near the box, shaking hands and kissing babies in a crowd around him. No sooner did he finish that when a floating ball came hurtling down to his outstretched leg. With his back to the goal, he then cradled the ball, turned, and fired on the rebound before the warhead screamed over the bar. Though the shot missed, SMS definitely saw some youngsters in Section 104 with mouths covered in disbelief, and many long tees waved in delight.

Random soccer-related thought: It’s not just the LA Galaxy that’s coming to Foxboro on the 12th…it’s David Beckham and the LA Galaxy.

Random semi soccer-related thought: Kansas City obviously does not use OxyClean for their white unis, as SMS noted that the road clubs jerseys were less than white. Then again, SMS has nothing to substantiate that the Kansas City jerseys are even washed during the season. (I kid, I kid!)

Recent jersey purchase: No jersey this week, but rather an artifact from the USA’94. For a mere $12.97, SMS was able to purchase a like-new, USA ’94 Apex One Windbreaker, much like the one occasionally worn by Bora Milutinovic back in the day. (Note: SMS is still in search of a Milutinovic wig to match.)

The “MLS Hates the Revs” Conspiracy update: Further proof that the powers that be certainly smile in depriving the Revs of the spotlight whenever possible: espn2 has decided to pick up Sunday's LA Galaxy-Toronto FC match, which may mark the MLS regular season debut of Mr. Beckham. Since espn2 can only broadcast a set amount of matches per season, the casualty of this scheduling change is the Revs-Rapids match the following Thursday. Which just goes to show...MLS hates the Revs.

How do you say “JoJo” in Portuguese? With the recent news of Freddy Adu's $2 million transfer to Portuguese Liga club SL Benfica, SMS was pleased to see the wunderkid land at the club, which just so happens to be the Portuguese club of choice for yours truly. In all seriousness though, the situation is the best fit for all involved.

First, Adu's star in MLS had all but burned out - in fact, quite prematurely - given the fact that the former RSL/DCU midfielder is all of 18 years old. The star of the 2004 MLS SuperDraft was traded to RSL during this past offseason, but never really fit into manager Jason Kreis' scheme. Plus, Adu's exorbitant salary for a small-market club like Real was certainly not helping the club and a transfer or trade. Lastly, with Adu's contract set to expire at the end of the season, MLS smartly cashed in on the star's recent showing in Canada.Adu never reached the star placed so astronomically high above him in MLS.

Value diminished and look to start anew, Adu never really settled into Kreis' struggling side. Then, the magic and wonder surrounding the newly-legal star appeared during the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Canada, and suddenly, Adu was reborn.

No one will dispute that Portuguese Liga is on par with EPL, Bundesliga, and La Liga. While Adu reportedly garnered mild interest from Manchester United during the offseason, the more appropriate forum for a talented youngster like Adu is a lower-tired European league like the one in Portugal.

The league itself has born many attacking talents, namely, a 21-year old Cristiano Ronaldo, and most recently, one-named youngsters Nani and Anderson, both of whom transferred to Manchester United in June for a reported $22 million combined. My point...ah yes, my point - good move!

(For further reading on this, check out Frank Dell'Apa's piece on the transfer on

Misleading advertising, the Sequel: While yours truly was returning from Wednesday's training at Payson Park Field (a place that will be discussed in a future entry), he encountered a flyer at the local gas station that stated the following promotion for the KC-Revs match: Free ShirtFree Plasma TV*

What? A free TV? I'll pitch my tent right outside the newly constructed entry gates for the first crack at hauling one back to the abode! Oh wait a minute...that little asterisk usually means "refer to the small, barely readable print entailing what the caveat is." In this instance, yes, someone can win a 42" Plasma screen TV. However, you must enter to win the TV. Thus the flyer, if it hopes to be accurate, should read, "enter to win a Free TV." Another fine example of shrewd marketing, even if it is somewhat misleading.

Following the match, SMS offered this haiku to the not-so-clean shaven birthday boy:

Happy Birthday Noonan
Maybe Gillette can offer
You a new Mach3?

Another birthday haiku for the fellow birthday boy:

Birthday boy shines on
National television
Nothing gets by Heaps!

Alternate soccer clubs of SMS’s interest update: None at this time, sir. Aaaaaiiiiiiiyeeeeeeee! Although the Stingrays season is over, SMS will boldly go where no semi-delusional, third-person referencing soccer critic has gone before: college soccer. Stay tuned!

US Women’s National Team Feature: She’s earned 162 caps over nine years as a defender for the WNT, and yet, despite the mileage, Christie Rampone still does well to give her opponents headaches. Interestingly, according to her bio, Christie has a black lab named tiger – but Christie, tigers aren’t black! Anywho, one of the most senior members of the squad will be appearing in her third FIFA Women’s World Cup this September, hoping to help ensure another championship for the USA.

Join us in 72 hours or so on what promises to be another sunny Sunday afternoon for the DC United match. While the next two weeks are going to be quite busy for the boys, the same could be said for SMS as well, with schedule jam-packed with weddings, vacations, family barbeques and llama raising.

Oh, and then some bloke named Beckham will be here next Sunday. Friends and family have been clamoring to SMS in an attempt acquire some sort of Becks-related physical specimen of to bring back them. Tall order, right? Wrong! I will duly bottle and seal with the official SMS Stamp of Approval, high quality, authentic David Beckham air from Gillette Stadium horded mere feet away from the English superstar. Remember, this will be an SMS exclusive!

Got a comment, question, or accusation? Feel free to write me at Hey, I just may quote you in a future article. Be advised that comments and questions will be selected on a completely arbitrary basis.

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